Sunday, March 30, 2008


This is an "incomplete post" -- there are many more things to add to it. But here's what we have for right now.

Wanna buy a used car? There aren't more than 4 or 5 car dealerships in Kinshasa, and not one of these has a used car department of any consequence. Most used cars are sold off of "used car lots" along the side of the road. Here's a used car dealership alongside Mulumba Blvd. -- each morning about 50 or 60 cars appear alongside the road -- there are occasional lookers and buyers, and then at night all the cars get driven somewhere to be stored overnight. Almost all the used cars here come from Europe, and still have their identifying European country sticker on them -- "B" for Belgium; "F" for France; "CH" for Switzerland; "D" for Denmark, etc. Someone buys them in Europe and ships them down here. The process of licensing, registering, reporting sales to the government, sales tax -- no clue what happens. But the inventory always changes and cars are being sold from under the trees.

There are gas stations, although probably not more than 100 for the 8 plus million people in Kinshasa. All the petroleum products are distributed by a government entity called "SEP" -- you see their big tank trucks. I guess the major oil companies have their additives blended in at the SEP tank farms. Diesel is by far the prevelent fuel -- at about $ 6.50 - 7.00 a gallon, government price controlled. Our SUV takes about 200 litres, or about $ 250 a fill-up.

Far more interesting are the street-side vendors who sell diesel by far smaller quantities, as people can't afford a $ 250 fillup. They fill containers and put them on these racks by the side of the road. Here you see everything from 4 litre containers -- the large blue containers in the top right, to litre sized plastic containers, to used Coke bottles, which hold about .3 litres. A guy with a moto may wheel in for a Coke bottle (about 50 cents) or a plastic one litre bottle (about $ 1.30). The bigger 4 litre fillup ($ 5) would be took big for his tank -- those are reserved for cars or combies that need to go another 20 miles. There are similar sized containers of oil -- very handy since most vehicles here belch enormous quantities of blue smoke. For some of them, I think the consumption of oil equals or exceeds the consumption of diesel fuel.
Here's your "one stop" shop for athletic equipment -- soccer balls, an exercise bike, etc. But if you injure yourself by exercising too vigorously, we have crutches, canes, etc. If you really overdo it, we can sell you a wheelchair. All out in the open, under a tree. Each night the inventory disappears to somewhere, to be carefully restocked in the morning when the store opens for business.

If you get thirsty during the day, particularly as you ride in a non-air conditionned combie, there is the "O - P" man ready to slake your thirst. On top of this vendor's head is a plastic sack about 3 feet tall (when it is full) and 1 1/2 feet in diameter. Filled to the brim with plastic bags of "eau pure" -- French for pure water. (Except that most eau pure comes from taps and non-filtered sources -- we would never dare drip out of an eau pure sack.) It's a lot easier to just shout "O - P", or as they do it, "O-P, O-P, O-P". A bag of about 300 mililitres costs 50 francs or 10 cents.

They run along the street next to the combies, shouting "O-P, O-P". A hand thrusts a 50 franc note out the window and the transaction is consummated. Unfortunately about 1 minute later, the empty bag will fly out of the window to settle on the roadside somewhere. Trash is a major problem here, particularly the millions of O-P bags that will never decompose. So they get burned, leaving an oily black plume of smoke boiling up into the air.
A very large bakery called "Pain Victoire" sells bagettes to mamas, who carry these large plastic basins of bread on the their head as they walk down the side of the road to where they will set up and vend them. Right next to Pain Victoire, the vendors sell plastic sacks of 5 or 10 bagettes at a price of 100 francs per bagette (about 18 cents for a bagette about 18 inches long). They are baked continuously during the day so they are fresh and warm, and very tasty (particularly if you slather them with butter). These ladies are selling bread (in the two large plastic basins) and hard boiled eggs -- sitting on the black plastic milk milk crate.
I'm not sure which furniture store "by the side of the road" sold this gorgeous sofa and chair set, but you can see the "pouse-pouse" delivery truck that is delivering it. Off to the side of the road, you can see some bunk beds which are being sold.
Here's something else that sadly is being sold. In the interior of the Congo, there are huge trees being harvested for their gorgeous mahogany and other hardwoods, and sent to places like China where it will be made into furniture. The logs are floated down the Congo River to Kinshasa, and loaded onto these big trucks for the 110 mile truck to the coast. Unfortunately the rapids in the river just downstream from Kinshasa prohibit floating them the rest of the way to the coast. Each log is about 50 feet long, and three of them make a truckload.

And that's how things are sold -- with the exception that we will add some more in a couple of days.

Love to all - Don and Marsha

Saturday, March 29, 2008


Every missionary and every new member of the church have their story, and a lot of love between them.

Here are Elders Nsiala and Malumba (left and right sides) flanking two young men with whom I had a baptismal interview at the new Ngaba chapel. The chapels which the Church is building are close to what the church builds in other countries, except that the construction is all masonary inside and out, and the floors are all tile. They are landmark buildings in their neighborhood. If I shot pictures of the neighborhood, and particularly "rond point Ngaba" -- which is a big traffic roundabout about 100 yards away, you wouldn't believe the difference.

These two great young men who were baptized several days later, are typical of the men who join the church. Frere Christoff on the left, is 19 or 20 years old. When I asked him to share his testimony about the teachings of the church, it was like a young man who had been a member all his life. Frere Rolland on the right, is a 27 year old, third year constitutional law student at University of Kinshasa, married with two young children. When he came up out of the waters of baptism on Sunday, he was all smiles and so grateful for this great privilege. He will be a real asset to the church.

Here are the four sisters who live together in the Binza "apartment". It really isn't an apartment, but a three bedroom house behind an 8 foot high masonry wall. All of our missionaries live in these homes -- they are very expensive, but there are no conventional apartments in Kinshasa. So to balance out the high cost, we have to but missionaries together 4 to 6 in a home. Sisters Besolo, Kakuji, Gweth and Tshimpamba are together with the wife of a member, who was baptized several days later. Here in Africa, usually the man joins the church first, and then his wife will follow, sometimes many months later.

Sister Besolo is engaged, as are about 3 other of our 13 sister missionaries. She joined the church two years ago, and decided that she should serve a mission before she gets married. We met her finance about a week later down in Lubumbashi, where he is going to university. He joined the church about the same time, and is anxiously waiting for February 2009 when she will finish her mission.

We've recently found out also about an elder who is engaged, who will finish his mission in June 2008. In the U.S., this just wouldn't happen, and as I interview prospective missionaries, I'm going to make sure that none of them are engaged, or "about to be". That's a problem I hope not to have with other elders in the mission. The sisters I can deal with, but a young man who is engaged is "trouble with a capital 'T' ". Here are three wonderful new members of the church, along with the sister missionaries, Sister Buekazebi (on the left) and Sister Nkulu (second from the right). These three new members were baptized on Sunday, February 17th. I interviewed the man in the middle, Roger, who is a medical doctor at the General Hospital of Kinshasa. He is an OB/GYN, who had performed abortions earlier in his career, but quit doing them 5 years ago (at some career risk) because he felt that this was wrong. In our interview, I sensed a wonderful spirit, and it was a joy to attend his baptism.
When cameras open up, the first picture may be of a small group, but everyone wants to get in on the action, so the picture of the 5 above soon turned into a group photo. But there is a story -- the man standing just to the right in the second row is the 1st counselor in the mission presidency -- Dr. Jacques Muliele. He is a wonderful seasoned member of the church who joined in France in the early 1980's but returned to the Congo (although he didn't have to) because he wanted to help establish the church here. That he has, serving as a stake president (a position where he is responsible to help direct about 12 congregations), and in other positions.

Dr. Muliele also practices as an OB/GYN, with his own clinic, as well as practicing at the General Hospital of Kinshasa. So I asked him to come to Roger's baptism. They recognized each other immediately, and now our new church member, Roger, has a friend at the hospital as well as the members in his local congregation.

Here are the 11 wonderful elders in Brazzaville, along with the two Assistants. Three of these elders come from Ivory Coast, and they are magnificent missionaries. All of these young men are so beloved by us. Missing from this picture is Elder Nguenga, who was down in South Africa to hopefully find medical answers to some problems he was having. He returned last week, but still has pains and problems, in spite of being checked out head to toe in South Africa and receiving a clean bill of health.

Tonight (Saturday, March 29th), all the missionaries in the Brazzaville Zone are fasting for Elder Nguenga and for his health. Brazzaville is just across the river, but it is an all-day trip to get there and back for me. So I called the two missionary leaders (called Zone Leaders for those who aren't familiar with missionary terms), and asked them to join together with Sister Livingstone and I in a fast for Elder Nguenga. They called me about 6:30 and reported that they had all gotten together to pray at the start of their fast, and tomorrow night, at my request, all 12 of them will get together again and use their priesthood to give Elder Nguenga a blessing. What magnificent young men. Here are six elders who live in the an apartment in Masina, in east Kinshasa. They have gone up to 5 days without electricity, as it is very sporadic in this sector of Kinshasa. But they use candles to read, cook and eat at night and in the early morning, and never miss a beat.

I had a "tender mercy of the Lord" moment with Elder Mbayo-Ngoy, third from the left, on March 19th. We received a call from Lubumbashi that his step-mother with whom he lived for a number of years after his real mother died, had passed away. His older brother lives here in Kinshasa, and we went together to talk to Elder Mbayo-Ngoy. It was a tender touching moment to discuss the blessings of knowing that we will live again, thanks to the resurrection of Christ. I was fearful of a totally distressed and depressed elder, but he was so brave in bearing testimony that he knew he would see both of his mothers again in the eternities. That is the message of hope that we teach to others, and his testimony of it was so tender and so real. It was a great lesson for me.

The young sister missionaries are truly amazing. In reality, they "set the bar" for the young elders. Here are five great sister missionaries who live in the Kasavubu apartment, and serve with honor and distinction. From left to right -- Sister Lengelo, her companion Sister Lukonga, Sister Kanyeba who was released after 19 months of great service on March 13th, Sister Mukaz and Sister Mbessi-Iloki.

They live on a street with dirt roads, with piles of garbage off to the side, and they serve with all their hearts. I think when the door to their yard swings open, and they step out with their clothes so clean and their smiles so bright, the whole neighborhood knows who they are, and respects them and loves them for their examples of what young Congolese ladies can be. In most African societies, women are not particularly respected and aren't fairly treated -- but these great sister missionaries show women whom they can become.

Well, here's a missionary -- or rather a prospective missionary -- that we hope will be a great elder. Our youngest son, Drew came for 10 days in early March to visit us. He attended three half-day meetings with groups of missionaries, in a language that he didn't understand, but bore his testimony and visited with the elders and sisters. We hope that he will be able to leave this fall and serve his mission.
Here are three new missionaries that arrived on March 13. From left to right -- Elder Yengo, one of the Assistants to the president; Elder Olinga from Yaounde, Cameroon; Sister Ilombi from Kinshasa; Elder Mutenda from Kananga; and Elder Oubassissa, the other missionary serving as an Assistant. Elders Yengo and Oubassissa are experiences and wonderful leaders. I would trust them with almost any task, and they work extremely well with the missionaries. Today they left to fly to Lubumbashi, 1,000 miles to the southeast, where they will work for at least a half day with each of the five teams of elders. Wednesday, Sister Livingstone and I will fly to Lubumbashi for interviews with the 10 elders serving there, and then a half day meeting to share inspiration and teaching with and from them on Thursday. The Assistants are invaluable in being able to help train and inspire the missionaries.

Each of these new missionaries has a great story of their conversion and faith. Sister Ilombi joined the church two years ago, at the age of 24. Her parents are not yet members of the church; her dad is a professor at University of Kinshasa. She asked them for their blessings for her to serve a mission and they agreed. She had a companion for three weeks in the MTC who only spoke English, but she perservered and learned a little English.

I'm glad that Elder Mutenda is here. He called me every week asking, "President, where is my mission call?" For elders and sisters here, it is not uncommon for them to have to wait 4 - 6 months from our interviews to the time that they receive their call. Samuel really wanted to go, as he turns 26 next month -- the cutoff age at which the young men generally cannot serve. We are glad he is here.
Elder Olinga comes from Cameroon. I interviewed him last July and his call came in November. He was baptized about 5 years ago, and for a long time was the only member of his family. But the last Saturday before he left Cameroon to come on his mission, February 15th, he had the wonderful privilege to baptise his mother. So one of his most memorable baptismal services came just before he started his mission. He has a really sweet spirit and will be a great elder.
Here are our stalwart North American elders and Elder Mol, who serve in Cameroon. In the following post, you'll read about their harrowing experiences during a 4 day period of civil unrest in Cameroon at the end of February. We had a great zone conference with them two weeks later and their faith and trust in the Lord was amazing.
Here are the Hanks and 8 missionaries striding down the street. Count 'em -- you'll find 10 people, ifyou can see Sister Hanks hidden by Elder Shaw on the extreme right of the picture, and Elder Nielsen just barely shown between Elder Anderson (shiny forehead) and Elder Archibald to his right.
All 10 of them traveled to the place for our meal in the Hanks' little Izuzu pickup truck. Pretty amazing, huh? Actually 5 were in the king cab while the other 5 rode in the back, with the plastic cover zipped down so the police wouldn't stop the truck and demand a bribe. No problem if there were 15 Cameroonians in a truck like this, but 5 "blancs" -- that could be an occasion for a little demand by the gendarmes. Look comfy, don't they!!
We are so grateful for these wonderful sons and daughters of great earthly parents, and our Father in Heaven. They are teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, loving these people and serving them. What a privilege it is for us to be with them and serve the missionaries.

So if you see a missionary, or a prospective missionary, give 'em a hug, or feed them, or those of you who aren't members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- listen to their message with your heart, mind and eyes and ears. It will bless your lives here, and in the eternites.

Love to all -- Don and Marsha


The last week of February, Cameroon had some major civil unrest. The present president, who has been in power for many years, would like to change the constitution so he can continue to seek additional terms. Additionally the cost of important essentials like gas and food had increased sufficiently that it was difficult for the common people to afford them. The result were four days of protests and civil disturbance in Douala, where we have 4 missionaries and a senior couple, and some lesser tensions in the capital city of Yaounde, where there are 6 missionaries and another wonderful senior couple. Heavenly Father was very gracious and protective of all our missionaries during this time, and we are so very grateful.

We were scheduled to fly to Douala on Monday, Feb. 25th, but our flight arrives right around midnight. Usually the Coles come and pick up us, but for their safety, it wouldn't have been wise for them to be out on the streets at that hour in a time of tension. The airport is only about 5 kilometers from their apartment, but it had been cut off during the day and there was no knowing what the situation would have been. We could have stayed at the airport and slept on a bench overnight, and hoped for better conditions on Tuesday so someone could come pick us up, but the Spirit guided us not to go. As it turned out that was the inspired decision, as there were several days of significant unrest before things settled down.

Thanks to the Coles and their great relationship with the American consular general in Douala, the embassy sent an armored Suburban to pick up the missionaries on Tuesday morning. They had ventured out on Monday morning but immediately sensed the difficulties, and had been hunkered down in their apartment for the rest of Monday, listening to some small arms fire on their street. Sister Coles was magnificent to take in the 4 elders, feed them, etc. until things settled down and they went back to their apartment on Friday. The Hanks did a wonderfully similar job up in Yaounde, where although there wasn't as much physical damage, the concerns over the missionaries was the same. We counseled daily with Church Security in Salt Lake, the two couples in Cameroon, and the Area Presidency in Johannesburg.

A modern car dealership near the airport was totally ransacked and destroyed. Across the street, a gas distribution center had six big tank trucks all burned out. Nearly all the gas stations in the area immediately east of Douala were destroyed. On the west side, the damage was less, but here is a Texaco station where everything was broken, looted and the pumps pushed over.

As we drove through the streets of Douala, you could see the melted pavement where either cars or piles of tires were set on fire. Thanks to the missionaries and the Coles and Hanks for their faith, courage and to all the parents for their prayers.

The damage from this disturbance in Cameroon was relatively minor, compared to the damage that you see in the Republic of Congo and the DRC from the civil wars in these countries. The major conflict in the DRC has taken place on the eastern side of the country, and the toll is not in physical damage, but in roughly 4 - 5 million lives that have been lost through either the conflict or its terrible consequences on the civilian population.

Brazzaville and the Republic of Congo, across the river from the DRC, had several terrible civil wars 10 - 12 years ago. The remnants and reminders of this conflict are everywhere. Here in a residential neighborhood of very humble circumstances sits a rusty veteran. We looked at a prospective missionary apartment for sister missionaries about two blocks from here.

Here is what is left of a very modern office building after the civil war in Brazzaville. Totally destroyed, either by the war or the subsequent looting, etc.
There is a very large 30 story highrise office building right along the river in Kinshasa, where we walk at night. The street is where the embassies or ambassadorial residences of most major nations are located. The building has some windows shot out, and we have never seen an occupant in it. The garage space on the main level is occupied by some tanks and armored personnel carriers -- every so often, they fire up one and run it down the street and back. There are sandbagged machine gun posts and APC's standing guard at locations along the street.

We hope there is peace here in these countries. In II Chronicles 7:14, it states, "If my people, who are called by my name, shall numlbe themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." We pray each night that the people will turn from their sins, seek the Lord and humble themselves, and we know that He will heal their lands.On the main street in Brazzaville, here's what remains of a relatively modern supermarket, after their civil wars. Although it has been years since the war, there is no effort to rebuild -- no insurance money, and perhaps a lack of faith that it wouldn't happen again. The general public are the losers. Obviously this building took a lot of abuse.
In North America, we have never seen the physical consequences of conflict for 145 years, since the Civil War. Truly Heavenly Father has blessed our land in so many ways. Our hope and prayer is that people will remember God, so He will continue to bless our lands with peace. What a wonderful blessing that has been. And how we ought to thank those who had the courage and loyalty to serve in the great armed conflicts, and in the armed services even up to today. They help preserve the peace, not only for America, but for the world. We see UN soldiers here from many nations, at great personal sacrifice, helping to preserve the peace here. Our hope is that they will succeed, and the people will learn that only through peace and co-operation with each other can their country progress. When it does, there will be hundreds of congregations, tens of stakes, and a temple of the Lord. What a great blessing that will be!!
Love to all -- Don and Marsha

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


On February 8 - 14, we took our semi-annual trip to a city called Luputa, about 600 miles southeast of Kinshasa. The trip itself is quite a journey -- a flight to a city of 4 million called Mbuji-Mayi, where we rent four wheeled vehicles from Catholic Charities (which whom we partner very frequently on humanitarian projects) and then drive 120 - 130 kilometers over about 9 hours to Luputa.

In Luputa, we have 6 congregations and about 1,200 members. It's a city of 125,000 with no power, no real dependable water, and very rural. But it is a city with the sweetest spirit to it. No one who goes to Luputa ever comes away the same.

It's an adventure. The road for the last 45 miles is dirt, with ruts, bumps, etc. When we get there we stay in an old Catholic monastery. The rooms are $ 10 a night (about fully priced) and we take freeze-dried foods, peanut butter and jam, and camp out.

And we love it -- because the people there are so pure, so good, so simple. When they are converted to Jesus, they love Him with all their heart. Of the 1,200 members in the district, over 900 attended the conference, even though 650 - 700 of them had to sit outside the small building we presently use. The church rented a portable generator, a small video camera, and a 17 inch TV to show conference to those outside the building.

There are four posts about our trip.

1. Scenes from the Countryside on the Luputa Trip
2. and 3. The People and Sights of Luputa
4. The Trip Itself with the Roads and Challenges of the Travel

We love these people. Although it took two weeks for the bruises on my legs and ankles to heal from bouncing around the back of the truck while on the roads, we can't wait to go back next August.

Hope you enjoy seeing these people and what their world is like.

Love to all -- Don and Marsha


Rainy season in Africa. The roads become mudholes (see the posting "The Trip to Luputa"). Little creeks that were trickles of water in August become roaring torrents that jump their banks and almost come up to the deck of the bridge, in February. I remember this bridge when we crossed it in August -- why was it about 20 feet above the little creek? Now we know. And every creek, every river in a country that is 1,500 miles by 1,500 miles eventually drains into the Congo River. By the time the Congo River reaches Kinshasa (still 110 miles from the ocean), it is several miles wide, and the flow of water is exceeded only by the Amazon River.
An "not uncommon" sight in Africa are missions that the Catholic Church built to serve people and also to bring them into their faith. Here is a large church -- the anchor of a mission that was built over 100 years ago. We received a pamphlet on its history when we were warmly welcomed by the prelate now in charge of it. The names of the leaders up through the early 1960's were all Belgian or French -- when independence came to the Congo in 1960, these people unfortunately were not well treated by the Congolese and so they left. Their structures - both buildings and infrastructure have been sadly neglected -- but there is still a majesty to what they left behind.

This mission had a compound of about 6 or 7 large brick structures that the Belgians had built. It was probably about 20 kilometers in either direction from Mwene-Ditu or Luputa -- out in the middle of Africa where the fathers and nuns served the people because of their love for them. There must have been a very large collection of people here, as you can tell that this is a good sized structure.

Now this is a colorful dress!! The collection of fabrics was a little more kalideoscopic in this dress than others, but you can see that they love their colors. Our wardrobe when we return might be a little noticeable in Provo!!
We pulled off the road (see the segment of "The Trip..." for one of the vehicles getting stuck), and after our lunch talked to and visited with the several families that lived in this little 2 - 3 house group, about 5 miles away from anything else on the road. They were most willing and happy to help us see where they lived and what they did.

We walked up the path to their little collection of several living places. Note the gardens on the left and right -- they were growing manioc (which gives them a white floury substance that they mix with dried ground corn to produce a carbohydrate goo that they eat with every meal), and corn. Behind the structures were the fruit gardens, the kitchen, bathroom (no pictures of that0 and the family room -- all outdoors.

Here is the kitchen -- notice how neatly the dirt floor has been swept with their straw brooms. The black container holds water that is caught from rain run-off; there are several cooking stations which use charcoal that they produce to heat their food.
The view from the family room (outdoors of course) shows the backyard, about 20 or 30 miles of open vista, with not another human or structure in sight. It is a big wide open continent, with lots of open space!! America, China, Russia, India and many other countries would fit in the confines of Africa, with room left over for Europe. It is huge. Our mission along covers the western half of the United States.
We might focus on what they don't have -- a TV, Internet, garage with a couple of cars, etc. Their live is very simple, but it has its own beauty and bounties as well. In back of the house is their little garden -- lots of pineapple plants all if a row. You can see next week's fruit sitting all ready to be harvested, and there were probably about 50 plants in their garden in various stages of bearing fruit.

Their life has a simple beauty to it -- the sun comes up, you get up, you work, you produce your food, you do whatever else kind of work you can, you eat, the sun goes down (same time every day all year around), you sit around a fire with your family and then you go to bed to get ready for the next day. For those who are members, you throw in the daily scripture reading and teaching of your children, and church work as necessary during the week and Sunday services.

Sometimes, less might be more....

Love to all - Don and Marsha

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


As we get up on Saturday morning, we find that someone else has been up and busy before us. This is the largest spider and web I have ever seen, just outside our door. For reference purposes, the rafter at the very top of the picture directly above the spider is about 3" wide, so you can tell that if this one sat down by Little Miss Muffet, it would definitely frighten Miss Muffet away!!
The Barlows and their contingent will go to the water source on Saturday. They meet with the members of the water committee -- the local people to whom we will turn over the project when it is complete. They all want to go -- so it's 11 of them into the LandRover. More wanted to come but there wasn't room. They bumped over about 40 kilometers to get there -- all the time bumping into each other. But the Barlows said it was a great trip. If you want to read more about their experience and especially all the fabulous projects that they are involved with, please visit
While the Barlows and others are off to see the water spring that will serve the 175,000 people in the villages and the city of Luputa, I am off to the chapel to interview 9 young men who wish to serve as fulltime missionaries for two years for the Church. On the way, we see a man pushing his velo (bike) loaded with about 180 - 200 pounds of dry corn that he is transporting somewhere to sell. More about this in a minute.
Here's one of the 9 young men that I interviewed. As we chat, I interview them about their worthiness and why they want to serve a mission. We ask them to save $ 130 for their passport and additional for what they will need for clothes. In almost all other areas of the world, the young man or his family pays the $ 400 or so monthly cost for a mission. In Africa, the young people and their families cannot possible save that. So the church will pay most of the monthly cost, after they have earned the money for their passport, scriptures and clothes and shoes.

I asked all of these young men what they had done to earn their money. One worked as a nurse in the local hospital, another raised pigs or goats, but at least 6 of them told me that they earned their money by selling corn. This means they ride their bike 45 - 50 kilometers (30 - 35 miles) into the "interieur" as it is spelled here. They buy 180 - 200 pounds of corn, load it on their bike, and then push their bike back to Luputa. (See two pictures earlier.) They rest here for part of a day, and then push their bike to Mwene-Ditu, a larger city about 45 kilometers away, where they can sell it for a higher price. They then ride their bikes back to Luputa and complete the four day journey.
Between Luputa and Mwene-Ditu, there is a very large valley cut by a stream with good sized hills. The people pushing their velos will travel in groups of three. When they reach the bottom of the valley, two will leave their bikes there, and help push the first person and his bike up to the top of the hill. Then all three return and push the next bike up, and then repeat the process for the third bike. An amazing sight.
When asked how much they earn as profit on each trip, they said "between $ 10 and $ 12". So it takes them 20 trips, or at least 5 - 6 months to earn the money to pay their tithing, and save the rest for their passport, clothing, scriptures, etc. Is it any wonder that we have a special feeling about these great young missionaries from Luputa who serve in our mission??
When we arrive it is mass bedlam -- not from the members who are reverently sitting in their places 30 minutes before the session begins, but from all the neighborhood kids who have followed our truck down the road. (You can only drive about 5 mph due to the bumps and holes, so they can run faster than you can drive.) You can only escape this chaos by shaking every hand and satisfying their curiosity that our skin is no different from theirs, except for the color.
One of the treats of the Luputa Conference is always the youth choir -- about 50 kids smushed up in the corner of the building (they bend around to the left of the director in an "L" shape). They sing "a capella" -- perfectly in tune, and tackle amazingly hard pieces of music that are sung by the Tabernacle Choir. They listen to the music and figure out the parts. The conductor will leave to be a fulltime missionary later this year, but there will be someone equally as talented to take over when he leaves.
After church, everyone loves to visit -- and take pictures, and pose for pictures. But when the youth choir sang so magnificently, they deserve a picture. About half of them had left, but the others stayed -- all clean in their white shirts and blouses. The building in the background is the District Chapel -- it held about 250 inside and another 700 viewed from outside the building.
After the church meeting we announced the $ 2.5 million water project which will bring clear pure water from the hills 45 kilometers away to the 125,000 people of Luputa. All the members stayed for 30 minutes to hear speeches of gratitude given by the territory administrator (front row far left) and the mayor (front row, third from the right). These people are so grateful for the gift of good health that the water will give to their city.

Wherever the government officials are, the police aren't far away. Skip to the next blog (sorry that this one is full) to see their friendly guardian and the rest of the Sunday in Luputa.


Where you have the government officials, you always have their bodyguards. Most of them don't seem to be too friendly, but we had a good chat and I asked if I could take his picture. He almost seems too baby-faced and friendly to ever use that.
This wonderful man is Willie Binene, the leader of our six congregations in Luputa. He is called the District President. Here he is with his six year old son, and four year old daughter. Their youngest child is six months old. Note how beautiful Gracie's hair is -- and see the detailed braiding in the next picture.

Pres. Binene is a "cultivateur"-- a farmer. He has about 20 acres of corn under cultivation, and raises other crops. He is a wonderful, kind, loving church leader -- and his dedication to the calling is incredible. There are no banks in Luputa, and no Internet cafes, because at this time, there is no power system. The only power comes from portable generators, and the "mazook" to run them is very expensive. One day each week, Pres. Binene rides a bus or rides his bike 45 kilometers to a larger city called Mwene-Ditu, where there is power and Internet. He takes all the tithing and other offerings collected by the six congregations and deposits them in the bank in Mwene-Ditu, then goes to an Internet cafe and checks all the emails for the church. Then he rides back to Luputa. In good weather, he can make the trip all in one day. In bad weather, it is a 1 1/2 day trip. What faith and dedication to do this every week -- not being paid (in the church, it is a totally lay clergy). I marvel at his love for the Lord. And the sermon he gave on the Plan of Salvation -- where we came from, why we are here and where we go after this life, was as masterful presentation as I have heard on this topic.

Can you imagine the time it took Sister Binene to braid the hair of Gracie, their four year old daughter? Their love for their children, and particularly for their children to be specially dressed for the Sabbath Day, is always amazing!!

After the conference in the afternoon, we decided to go for a walk in the village just east of the monastery where we stayed for three nights. Needless to say, the three couples and Bro. Hokansen visiting for the conference are quite a curiosity among the villagers, most of whom have never seen a "mutoka" (white skinned person). You start off walking down the road and soon there are tens, then hundreds following you, as you greet them. You try to shake hands with them all but soon Marsha disappears in the midst of about 50 kids. It is quite an event, but so much fun to try to communicate with them, shake their hands, etc.